Q&A With District 3 City Council Candidate Adam Steiner

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Adam Steiner


Which pronoun do you prefer? He/his/him

Occupation: Director of Technology for the Maynard Public Schools

Why should voters re-elect you for District 3 City Councilor: It has been an honor to represent District 3 on the City Council for the past 4 years and I’m running for re-election for the same reason I ran for the Council in the first place – because I believe that Framingham needs leaders who will think creatively about the challenges we face and who will work collaboratively to take effective action.

I have shown an ability to work effectively with other Councilors, the Mayor’s office, and city
officials. That is one reason why I was elected to be Vice-Chair of the Council and Chair of the
Finance Subcommittee. Regardless of the outcome in other races on November 2, we will need
to have a City Council that is prepared for true collaboration – that sets aside personal ambitions and puts the success of the city first.

In addition, I have worked hard to be personally accessible to the residents of District 3 and to
make the City Council more accessible. I have had regular in-person and Zoom office hours. I
have shared my cell phone number and e-mail address. Prior to the pandemic, I worked with the School Dept. to have City Council meetings streamed on Facebook. The result is that more
residents have access to view Council meetings and more residents contact me with their
concerns.

I grew up in Framingham and learned firsthand as a K-12 student in our public schools that what makes our city great is our diversity of people, places, and ideas. This diversity is central to our history as a community but that does not mean we can take it for granted. We have to continue to strive to be a community that welcomes all types of people, that strengthens the rural, suburban, and urban elements of Framingham, and that values a variety of perspectives.
These progressive values need champions on the City Council and I have shown a commitment
to fight for them over the past 4 years and will continue to do so if re-elected on November 2.

Political Website or Facebook page link to find more information:
https://www.facebook.com/SteinerforFramingham


Describe the City of Framingham in 3 words Diverse, promising, and vibrant

Best thing about District 3 is: the neighborhoods.

District 3 needs: the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.

Report Card time. What letter grade would you give the Mayor?

Editor’s Note: If there is no response the candidate chose not to answer the question

Should the Mayor be required to attend every City Council meeting? (yes or no) Yes

Report Card time: What letter grade would you give the City Council this second term?

Participation in government by the City’s 70,000-plus residents is fabulous, adequate, or lacking
(pick one)? uneven

City of Framingham did an (amazing, adequate, or poor job) (pick one) when it came to the
Coronavirus pandemic adequate

Should City of Framingham municipal employees be required to get a COVID vaccine? (yes or
no)

City of Framingham is on (the right track, spinning its wheels, going backwards) (pick one):

Do you support a split tax rate for businesses and homeowners? (yes or no) Yes

Should City offices close early on Fridays? (yes or no) No

Should there be designated parking spaces for customers at the Memorial Building? (yes or no)
Yes

City of Framingham is (ahead of the curve, making progress, or behind its neighboring
communities) when it comes to environmental issues: Behind its neighboring communities.

Framingham Public Schools receive (too little, just the right amount, or too much) funding. Too
little.

Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis says the proposed legislative redistricting plan which carves up the City
into four districts is “best” for the City of Framingham. Do you agree? (yes or no) not perfect but good

Do you support in-law apartments in the City of Framingham? (yes or no) Yes

Route 9 is (past its prime, surviving, booming center of commerce) in Framingham (pick one)
Surviving

What City Council subcommittee do you wish to serve on? Finance, economic development, &
environment and sustainability

The #1 issue I hear from residents in my district about is Traffic.


QUESTION #1: In your opinion, what is the biggest issue facing YOUR District? Incumbent: What have you done during this term to work to eliminate that issue? Be specific

Having been a City Councilor for 4 years, people are always sharing their concerns about our
city with me and the issue that most consistently comes up in District 3 is TRAFFIC. There has been so much residential development in Framingham and the surrounding towns over the years and with most people driving to work, so few corner stores, and very little emphasis on anything other than car traffic, it means more traffic. Also, because our student population is higher on the Southside of Framingham but more of our schools are on the Northside, we have a ton of bus traffic crisscrossing Framingham.

There’s no simple solution to the traffic challenge but rather a series of approaches that we
need to take. We will never be able to eliminate traffic as an issue but there are many steps we
could take to improve the issue – some we have done and many are left to do.

First, we need to think critically about any new residential development within Framingham. The moratorium was a helpful pause and we need to continue resisting the outside urge to build out every open space into apartments and McMansions. The passing of the CPA, which I also pushed for, will allow us to preserve open space as well.

Second, we need to increase the walkability and bike-ability of Framingham so that it is feasible
for people to get around without driving. We have added some traffic calming measures in
various neighborhoods in the city but we need to do more. We have provided funding to the
traffic commission but we need to provide more.

Third, we need to reduce school bus traffic. We were able to build a new middle school, the
Fuller School, that should attract more students to select the Fuller feeder elementary schools.
We need to build a new Southside elementary school that would serve our students better and
alleviate some of the bus traffic across our city, and we need to improve reliable bus transportation for all Framingham students, so that bus ridership will be a more attractive option than driving in so many separate personal vehicles.

Finally, we need to work with the owner of the Nobscot plaza to provide good neighborhood
shopping options for District 3 residents. We were able to work together to develop a plan that
will support retail options but encourages the owner to do something in the main part of the
plaza. Unfortunately, that effort has been hindered by allowing the CVS to be built without the
rest of the plaza but I am hopeful we can turn that around.


QUESTION #2: Speeding and traffic are top issues for residents. What letter grade would you give the Traffic Commission? How would you make sure residents’ traffic and safety concerns are heard and resolved by the Traffic Commission?

The Traffic Commission has done a good job but they are limited by their small budget. They
need to be fully funded so that they are able to respond to more concerns with traffic measures. This would enable them to use more creative solutions to slow down traffic because I know that speed bumps produce challenges for snowplowing. For example, passive speed control like signs giving your current speed have been shown to reduce speeding. In addition, we need more crosswalks with blinking lights, stop signs, and more police presence in neighborhoods with a history of accidents and speeding.

In addition in terms of access in the post-pandemic world, I would require all of our boards and
commissions to maintain an online option for meeting participation including being broadcast on Facebook. More residents would present their concerns if they were able to do so without
navigating to the Memorial Building.


QUESTION #3: Businesses are still trying to recover from the pandemic. Incumbent: What have you done to help businesses during the pandemic? What can still be done? Be specific.

Many Framingham businesses have struggled as a result of the pandemic, in particular our
restaurants and bars. As a City Councilor, it is important to be active on the ground in the
community while also looking at legislative solutions. I have spent much of the past two years
hearing from local businesses face to face (or mask to mask) about the challenges they were
facing including many businesses on Rt. 9 and in Framingham Centre in District 3. In the first
half of the pandemic, it was mainly about needing customers and cash flow. More recently, I
have been hearing more about the need for more qualified staff.


My family and I have supported local businesses and restaurants throughout the pandemic (and before) and have promoted them on social media frequently. We more frequently ordered
takeout from local restaurants and ordered more local gifts. We also participated in the excellent Restaurant Rush program, which helped to encourage residents across the city to eat local.

I also created an online gift guide – https://www.framinghamgiftguide.com/ – to highlight local
businesses and to encourage residents to buy local during the holiday season. The EDIC and
the Framingham Business Association helped to promote that website.

On the ordinance-side, there were a number of emergency measures that were enacted to try to help businesses. We allowed for outside dining and curbside pickup, two options that should continue. We also spread the word about City programs to provide financial support to local businesses and a great deal of direct cash assistance was provided.

QUESTION #4: Of the votes this term, which recorded vote do you wish you could change? Why?

The vote itself was last term, but I wish we had moved quicker on opening up cannabis sales in
Framingham. We have estimated $1,000,000 in revenue coming this year from cannabis and
we could have earned much more if the City had been quicker to allow for retail sales. We were
concerned about the potential side effects of the new industry but very few of those have come to fruition in any communities other than the two that opened before every else – and for them the negatives were temporary.


QUESTION #5: The City Council is the legislative branch of government. It creates laws and
rules for the City (known as ordinances). What ordinance would you file to improve your district (or city-wide) if elected? Why?


We need to address the overpriced housing glut in Framingham and at the same time respond
to the climate crisis in our development policies. So I am working on a series of ordinances that
I would call Sustainable Housing.

First, I am working on an Inclusionary Housing Ordinance that would expand access to affordable housing options in Framingham. It would include workforce housing for young adults and flexible housing options for seniors to help them stay in Framingham. We need to think creatively about our housing stock if we want new construction other than overpriced condos and McMansions.

Second, we need to have an alternative energy requirement for new construction. This could be
solar, geothermal, or other non-fossil fuel alternatives. More and more companies are doing this on their own and we should incentivize it so that businesses can overcome any short-term cost and reap the benefits of longer-term savings while also helping the environment.


QUESTION #6: The water & sewer enterprise fund is hemorrhaging money according to an
independent consultant’s report. What legislation or steps would you put forth to get that fund on firmer financial footing?

The problem with our water and sewer funds is that our spending on upgrades and maintenance to the system far outpaced the rates that users of the system were paying. Most of the spending on our water and sewer infrastructure was state-mandated but we had some discretion in the timing and scope of projects. In addition, as the spending and borrowing grew in particular over the past 5 years, the City did not raise rates in order to keep the funds fiscally healthy. The end-result is that all Framingham taxpayers are now subsidizing the system and ratepayers are going to be socked with huge increases for at least the next two years AND a big portion of our federal ARPA funds will be needed to make the funds whole.

Therefore, we need to: 1. Restrain our new spending on the water and sewer systems while the
system regains its fiscal balance while at the same time continuing to meet the obligations
defined by the state. 2. Create a base minimum charge so we are not sending out bills that cost
more to print than we receive back from the customer. 3. Attract new businesses to Framingham that will be higher-tier users of water. We need a Planning and Community
Development Department that aggressively goes after new businesses and offers flexibility in
our policies. We have offered TIFs to developers for commercial projects and apartment
buildings (in some cases, unnecessarily). We need a TIF program specifically tied to our
emerging industries that will bring them to Framingham.


QUESTION #7: What is your #1 priority on how to spend the ARPA funds? Why?


There are many areas that need to be addressed including infrastructure and community
amenities, but our first priority should be to get $ in the hands of residents and businesses that
continue to struggle. This should include direct support to residents, indirect support such as
EDIC’s gift card program for local businesses, and support to businesses directly in the form of
grants.


QUESTION #8: Do you think the City of Framingham is safe? Why or why not? How will you
work with the Mayor and the police department to make sure Framingham all residents enjoy a good quality of life?


Overall, Framingham is safe but there are areas of concern. In District 3, we have had issues
with car break-ins and certainly, there have been ongoing challenges in downtown Framingham in particular. It is essential that the City have a good working relationship with our local social service agencies.

In many cases, crime issues are tied to substance abuse and our best response is to provide
support and treatment rather than criminal justice that doesn’t solve the problem or help the
individual, it just kicks the can down the road. Our jail diversion program has been useful in
providing treatment rather than arrest and it should be expanded. We also need to work with our residential programs to ensure that clients have access to activities during the day that
promotes their well-being and contributes to the success of Framingham.


QUESTION #9: The City Council is responsible for approving the budget that is submitted by
the Mayor. Which city department is underfunded in your opinion? Why?

Economic development. We need a total makeover of our economic development department
that begins with a consistent goal of attracting and retaining businesses with constant
communication. Once that is in place, our economic development effort should be
supplemented with additional funding to attract and retain businesses – and with metrics to
demonstrate the return on investment for those dollars.

QUESTION #10: What is YOUR biggest accomplishments during this term? What 3 things do you want to accomplish in your next term?


My biggest accomplishment in both of my terms has been protecting school funding despite
various fiscal challenges, efforts by conservative members of the Council and the Mayor to
reduce school spending, and the economic concerns provoked by the pandemic. This
commitment to education was also evident in my strong support of the effort to build the new
Fuller Middle School and in my defense of school budgets.

In my next term, I would continue that effort to promote and protect our excellent public school system, help to restore the relationship between the Council and the Mayor’s office, and guide a refreshed and renewed economic development department.


QUESTION #11: There is a lot of open space still in District 3. What steps have you taken as a City Councilor to make sure it will not be overdeveloped? What steps do you still need to accomplish?


The apartment moratorium was a helpful pause in residential construction, we also have worked with Sudbury Valley Trustees to protect land from development, and the Community
Preservation Act will be a useful tool as well. We need to promote sustainable development that makes sense for Framingham including commercial development including a new Nobscot
Plaza and workforce housing that is not overly dense.

We should resurrect the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) in order to promote commercial
development and reduce the build-out of every open space in the city. For example, a new
business in the Tech Park may wish to exceed our current zoning regulations by a small
amount. We should be open to that if the business would provide compensation to protect an
undeveloped area of land.

We will also need to use the Community Preservation Act (CPA) strategically in all of
Framingham, ensuring that we are protecting open space whenever possible.


QUESTION #12: The outgoing CFO said she left the City of Framingham fiscally sound. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Yes and no. Our municipal budget and our overall fiscal situation are sound. However, our water and sewer enterprise funds are a mess, and ratepayers and the city will be paying the price for that for several years to come.


QUESTION #13: City Councilors must work collaboratively to get legislation passed and to
make changes for the better of the City. Give an example where you worked with another Councilor to get something changed. Name that Councilor and how you worked together.

In 2019, the Mayor’s budget underfunded our School Dept. Working with members of the
Council including Chair Giombetti and our state delegation we adopted a local option that
allowed us to increase the school budget substantially over the Mayor’s proposal.


QUESTION #14: The Mayor and the City Council had a rocky relationship during the Council’s
first term. The relationship got worse during the second term. Describe your relationship with the current Mayor and talk about how you will work with either mayoral candidate come 2022. What are the keys to a good relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government? What will you do to build that relationship?


I am prepared to work with either Mayor Spicer or Mayor Sitisky to get things done for the
people of Framingham. In fact, I’ve had a good working relationship with both of them, with the Mayor over the last four years and with Charlie when he was a City Councilor.

For me, it is always about establishing common goals for the city of Framingham and working
together to achieve those goals. This has been true for me with all of the Councilors over the
last four years. While I haven’t agreed with them on every issue, I’ve maintained a productive
relationship with members of the Council and that is one reason why I was elected Vice-Chair of the council for this past term.

At the start of the next term, the Mayor and Council should meet regularly without waiting until we have challenging agenda items to address. These working sessions would be used for
brainstorming, for sharing ideas, and for building a rapport that will pay off when there are
challenges. The City Council should also do this to help us work better together as a team.


QUESTION #15: The Tech Park is in your district? What is your vision for that area? What will
you do as a City Councilor to help support that vision and economic development in that sector?


The Tech Park is a commercial and industrial center North of the Rt. 9 and Mass Pike intersection that is home to some of Framingham’s biggest businesses including Sanofi
Genzyme and Bose and many others. We need to continue to develop the Tech Park as a
commercial center by retaining our key businesses and attracting new ones, in particular in the
life science industry. In meetings with the leaders of these and other businesses in the Tech Park and the 9/90 area, it is clear their biggest challenge is with attracting and retaining qualified employees. We need to do our part by promoting workforce housing and improving
transportation networks so that entry-level employees can afford to live in Framingham and can get to work.

editor

email: editor@FraminghamSource.com call or text at 508-315-7176